text/conceptThe installation “Cross Solution” by Josef Bares and Jan Pfeiffer is constructed around a symmetrical sign, which can be understood as a representation of a real place – for example a park, which is structured by linear paths or a part of a city seen from above. Alternatively it can be understood as a representation of a general principle, stating the necessity of living within a given set of rules, yet having the freedom to break these rules and walk on a self-defined curve instead of the predefined rectangle. A video showing the performance of both authors, walking along – and across – the predefined lines from a bird’s eye perspective is shown together with the sign on the floor.
The work draws on Josef Bares’ interest in thought processes – the connections between an urban environment and meaning extracted from it – and Jan Pfeiffer’s interest in urbanism – how landscape design and architecture interacts with us, its users. It builds on previous works of both authors. Josef Bares’ work ‘forked1’ stripped down the decision making process to its bare skeleton, focusing on the never ending stream of decisions in our daily lives. Jan Pfeiffer’s work ‘Shortcuts’ was based on a research of paths-shortcuts supplementing the official network of paths in urban parks, connecting a satellite image observation with a real-world intervention. Both of these works were inputs to the collaboration which resulted in “Cross-solution”.
Our worlds are woven together of structures and patterns. Our thoughts, our decisions, our environment with all its supporting networks –social, material and virtual. Thoughts are projected into designs which are turned into real life forms, possible to be shared with and imposed on others.
Take our decision making processes: Our thoughts, which precede actions, are based within structures imprinted on our mind. They are formed through the participation in the educational system, based on a cumulative collective knowledge. We make decisions by picking from a set of possible, i.e. imaginable, solutions.
A similar pattern applies in case of our physical actions, which are based within limitations of material structures/designs. Our physical movement is directed by boundaries set by urban maps and architectural designs. And these maps and designs are in turn nothing else than an imprint of mental decisions into physical material.
In our work “Cross-solution”, we take an abstract representation of an urban landscape – multiple intersecting corridors in a geometrical shape outlined on the gallery floor. These are the roads and concrete paths which direct ways of human movement in an urban environment. In between, there are other areas. From within the imposed structure, they look like islands. Keep off the grass. Residents only. Do not enter.
The performer is free to walk along the outlined ‘paths’ and make ‘free’ decisions each time he reaches a ‘crossroad’. Yet, there is another rule: Think (and act) beyond the structure and go your own way. As a result, even thought most of the time the performer will walk along the outlined paths, sometimes, he will diverge. He will make a free decision to follow a shortcut, contradicting the imposed structure.
Even though we live within structures which were imposed on us, we are free agents, making decisions based on our own judgments. The set of self evident choices we have is always just a part of an infinite list, restricted only by our own imagination.